When I was in the seventh grade the school bully took a perverse pleasure in calling me "faggot" and making my life a living hell. Now, almost 40 years later, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma is looking for any way possible to make my life, and the lives of gays, lesbians, and our fellow Hoosier allies, a living hell as well.
After listening to over three hours worth of testimony both for and against HJR-3, three Republicans apparently saw the light, and decided it was not in our state's best interest to pursue it any further.
That was a week ago Monday. On Tuesday, Jan. 21, Bosma took the proposed amendment out of the judiciary committee, and put it in the hands of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee.
In the words of Indiana State Rep. Ed DeLaney, who served on the judiciary committee in question, "Speaker Bosma asked a well-prepared and balanced committee for its views and threw the advice away because he didn't like what he heard. This is a very disappointing and fundamentally wrong way to govern."
The junior high bully is alive and well, and his name is Bosma.
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And I'm tired of it! I'm tired of fighting for my right to be treated as something other than a second-class citizen in the State of Indiana. And as a Christian, I am tired of fighting with people who claim to love the same God that I do.
After listening to the arguments both for and against, there is no truly logical reason to pursue this amendment - especially since we already have a law in the books that clearly states marriage is between one man and one woman in the State of Indiana.
It boils down to two things: the "ick" factor, and the ultra conservative religious factor. The one that never looks beyond the Book of Leviticus, where "man lying next to man is an abomination."
I can say that because in the seventh grade I was a young, ultra-conservative Christian who saw the world as black and white, and felt called to be a man of the cloth. Then in college came the realization that I was gay. I spent the next two years attempting to pray my gayness away, while at the same time taking a fresh new look at the scriptures. It wasn't until I took a class in "Paul and his teachings" that I was finally able to reconcile the way I was raised with the man that God created me to be: a gay, Christian male, destined to live in a red State.
Several years later, I was able to minister to my friends who were HIV positive. Not minister in the traditional sense, but by reaching out to them as a friend, and letting them know they were loved. It was around this same time period that my fight with people within the church community - and fight against some of the more socially conservative thinking Republicans - began.
Both myself, and people like me, fought for the right to visit our loved ones in the hospital. We fought against the ignorance of people who felt that you could contract AIDS from someone sneezing in your direction. And at one point, we fought tooth and nail to have the Federal Government continue funding for the Ryan White Fund. People's lives were at stake. People who relied on the medications the Ryan White Fund paid for. And yet, our government had trouble getting past the "ick" factor, and felt that their religion justified them not doing anything at all...
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Sometimes you just want to slap people up side the head and say "Seriously? What part of "Love your neighbor" or "help those who are less fortunate than yourselves" do you not understand?" But that would be wrong, and more than likely cause someone to call me a bully for trying to force my beliefs on someone else.
It would also be wrong to assume that gay couples, or the struggle for equality, are somehow a new phenomenon - or that passing this amendment is somehow going to save the "sanctity of marriage" (or at least marriage as we understand it in the 21st century).
In 2002 I photographed 16 same-sex couples who had been together for 10 years or more. One of the couples I photographed just celebrated 62 years together in September. Sort of. One of them has been in a nursing home for the last 2 years with Alzheimer's, while his partner of 62 years visits him twice a day to make sure they are taking good care of him.
And in June of 1993, I set out to interview gays and lesbians who were 65 or older, and lived the majority of their lives in the State of Indiana. One of the first people I interviewed was a 70 year old grandmother of three from southern Indiana by the name of Chelsea - not her real name, but the one she chose to use for purposes of her interview, in order to protect her grandchildren.
Chelsea had this to say, "When Jessica and I met - she's the one who was my partner for 30 years - my daughter was a freshman in high school, and her mother was terminally ill. We planned that as soon as we got my daughter off to college, and as soon as her mother died, we would be free to have a life of our own. I could leave my husband and get a divorce... and both of those things happened.
Then my husband lost all of his eyesight, except for about 5 percent. And we were raised in an era where you took in 'guilt with your mother's milk,' and we didn't feel we could part. So at that point, coincidentally, my husband had to take in retirement. My daughter was in college in Indianapolis. So in order to cut down on expenses, we bought a house in Indianapolis; and we all lived together for the next 30 years.
Now I still share a house with my husband. He's 80 years old, and I still care for him; but we have not lived together as husband and wife for long before Jessie and I joined together. It's one of those things where you do the best you can. I guess it's all most of us can do throughout all of our lives." (June 5, 1993)
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Growing up, my father was always concerned that things be "fair and just." Well, this amendment, and having a majority of the people vote for the rights of a few, is far from fair. And the way Speaker Bosma changed venues mid-stream in order to get his way, is not even remotely just. Then again, what do you expect from someone who has a bully mentality?
Ironically, the bully who tortured me in the 7th grade, sought me out on Facebook several years ago, so he could apologize profusely for the way he treated me. If history repeats itself, I should receive a letter of apology from Speaker Bosma in another 20 to 30 years. But I'm not holding my breath.